What's in a Place?

Vancouver, British Columbia

I arrived under the darkest sky at the turn of the week, weighed down by jetlag yet buoyed on by that childlike sense of wonder and discovery.  Some days on, I'd say I'm almost accustomed to this new place; the formulaic street layout, the intricacies of the spoken accent which I'm still attempting to tune into and the angle the sun latches onto at dusk.  

As I recall the physical objects I've seen in this new place, though, I can't think of anything that startlingly unique; different shapes and colours, perhaps, but all the same things I'd find in my field of vision back 'home'.  So what is this invisible force I feel now that I'm here, miles from 'home' which leaves me feeling so greatly connected to this new place with its new colours and shapes?  Why does this brand new cityscape and landscape leave me feeling more in line with the world and with myself?

This mystery, these questions, in fact, are why I long to be in these new places.  It's not necessarily the postcard shots, the change in climate nor the magnificent difference in sensory input (though they all help) that I'm here for.  What's really lighting the fire are the changes these new places bring to ourselves and to our spirits; this is what really matters.

And that's what a new place can do.  Away from everything that is known to our minds and without our standard clock-in clock-out routines and pre-conceptions, a new place can offer glimpses of ourselves that we might not yet have known.  We find a new side, a new angle, a new behaviour in us, all able to now bubble to the surface in and amongst the stimuli of our new surroundings.  With that in mind, our new place can serve to exert long lasting shifts in our perspectives and attitudes, benefiting ourselves and those we hold closest.  So though they may all just appear as little dots on big maps, let us all remind ourselves every now and again of the undeniable value of a new place. 

Piers McEwanComment